Reno Petroglyphs- Overland Day Trip

Oldest Known Petroglyphs

The oldest know petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings) in North America are just a short trip from Reno. The Lagomarsino carvings are estimated to be 10,000-15,000 years old, and were likely created by the first humans to arrive on the continent.

As Reno newbies, we were looking for a fun overland day trip to learn a bit more about the area, satisfy our inner nerd, and get out of the house.  A friend suggested we check out the Lagomarsino Petroglyphs, and gave us appropriate directions (which aren’t well publicized). We started off toward Virginia City, which is a worthy destination on its own. 

It’s a great morning or afternoon adventure, but a spiderweb of trails can quickly turn this sidetrek into an all day trip (as in our case!).  You’ll traverse typical high desert terrain, rolling hills and a few scrubby treed areas.  The trail is moderate with a few washout sections, a handful of diff crunching rocks and a steep creek bank up to the final approach.  A high clearance four wheel drive is highly recommended, a Rav4 won’t cut it. Plan about an hour an a half for the trip out, and don’t expect to see many others out.  You’ll be getting close when you get to a green canyon with signs of an old homestead. That final creek bank is probably the most likely to hang up lower, long wheel base vehicles.  

The petroglyphs can be found on various boulders and large rocks on the canyon wall.  You’ll have to scramble up to get a view of the best ones, but it’s well worth it.  Apparently there are thousands in this little canyon, so we didn’t catch them all.  Learn more about them at NPR and The Nevada Rock Art Foundation. 


After checking out the petroglpys, we were eager for shade and hiked down into a a tree lined ravine that makes for a welcome oasis . A creek ran through and formed a small pond where the kids found tadpoles, frogs and minnows. Needless to say that entertained them for almost an hour while we enjoyed the cool air and shade. You can picture the Indians finding refuge and living life here thousands of years ago. It’s like their kiddos were playing with frog and tadpoles in this very spot.  

Wild Horses

Herds of wild horses were everywhere. We saw maybe a 10 groups of 10-20 horses and were able to get close to a lone mustang wandering the scrub. These mustang are great symbols of the west and it’s great to see so many roaming and healthy.   


Virginia City to Petroglyphs

Starting in Virginia City, you head to Geiger Grade to Lousetown Road which will turn into gravel then a rough track.  High clearance four wheel drive is necessary.  Nothing overly challenging, but enough to be entertaining for and overland day trip.  

Sparks/I-80 to Petroglyphs – Caution

Careful going this way, as a number of the roads dump onto gated private roads.On our first trip out, we winged it and ended up at a closed gate.The path below gets you out past any gates.

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